Safe Place information poster. (Brieanna Charlebois - Morning Star)

Safe Place information poster. (Brieanna Charlebois - Morning Star)

Slow start for LGBTQ safe place program: Vernon coordinator

The Safe Place program offers the LGBTQ2S+ community shelter if they are feeling unsafe.

It’s about creating a safe and welcoming place for Vernon’s LGBTQ2S+ community.

About six months since RCMP launched the Safe Place Program in Vernon, Rachael Zubick who has acted as Vernon’s Community Safety Coordinator for almost 18 years, said that about 20 businesses are now participating in the program.

Originating in Seattle, introduced in Vancouver two years ago, and launched in various locations throughout the province last fall, the program aims to offer the LGBTQ2S+ community shelter if they are feeling unsafe.

“The Safe Place program is really just putting it out there saying ‘this is a safe harbour for everyone,’” Zubick said. “The Community Safety Office is already a safe location for every person and most of the community knows that, but what this does is allow members of the LGBTQ2S+ to know this — and any place that has the sign in their window — is a safe place for people to come if they’re feeling that they are being intimidated, bullied, or whatever the case may be, and if they need police attention, we can certainly have the police attend and/or take a report from them.”

Businesses, schools, and other institutions participating in the program are easily identified by a rainbow coloured badge displayed on a door or window of their locations. Those interested in registering a location simply sign an agreement that states they will provide a safe place for anyone of the LGBTQ2S+ community, then post the rainbow decal.

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Though Zubick said the program had slow start in terms of a response or use by the LGBTQ2S+ community, she is impressed that many local businesses wanted to take part in the program.

“It’s slow to start but there’s people around and about and if you take a stroll around town, you will see stickers up and around. But, like almost everything in this town, if you don’t keep promoting it, something else happens and then people move onto the next thing, so it’s a challenge to keep people interested and keep this program in people’s minds.”

While Zubick said she hopes more come in and register to take part, she noted that there are other services available to LGBTQ2S+ individuals, namely through schools and the Family Resource Centre, who both offer educational programs.

“I think now, as times are changing, you’re starting to see a more active group but the schools and the Family resource centre has been the epicenter and phenomenal in terms of, not just in terms of the individual, but also the whole family and support system with the groups themselves,” she said. “Unfortunately the resources come and go when the money is there and that’s the challenge we’ve had in these initiatives for years because if there’s no money, there’s no programs unless people cobbled it together themselves, which is typically what happens in a smaller community like Vernon.”

Having moved last year, the Community Safety Office is now located 3010-31st Avenue in downtown Vernon.

“This office is all-inclusive and if people come in, no one gets turned away. Every segment of Vernon’s community is welcome here and we’ll provide them with whatever resources they need,” she said.

“Safe Place is really just another opportunity for people to feel included in a space that they know they’re going to welcomed into. That’s really what’s important and what we’re focused on.”

To report any anti-LGBTQ crimes, RCMP encourage people to call 911.

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